Not for the faint of heart or light of stomach, Butchered takes its audience into an absurdist descent of meat and madness. A fringe gem, highly recommended for anyone interested to see what horror theatre can deliver.
It is weird, gruesome, and a real festival highlight
This two-hander packs a punch from the moment we enter the gloomy damp space, which feels as though it was specifically designed for this production.
We meet two women, meticulously following a ritualistic mime of meat preparation. The horror is already there, visceral and disgusting. We hear the meat squelch, grind, and tear, from both an audio soundscape and the live prop. These horrific sounds also extend to the ones the actors produce: hoarse guttural screaming, gurgling, and pained groaning. The soundtrack went straight through my spine; at one point I began to feel physically sick.
We see the dirty faces, and grimy, blood-smeared costumes. The women's facial expressions are grotesque and bleak as they wipe their noses and lick their fingers. It truly is a deeply uncomfortable watch.
The performers have brilliant onstage chemistry and work seamlessly together, within both the sections of dialogue, and the skillfully crafted physical theatre. Their relationship is intriguing and holds the tension throughout the piece.
Listed as a piece of absurdist theatre, it fits well within the genre. The setting is a Waiting for Godot limbo, where the two are preparing the meat for unknown elites above: maybe humans, maybe monsters, this is unclear. As the play goes on, there's increasingly very little that is clear at all. We do not know the who, why, when, or even really what. What we do know is the potent misery and doom of the cycle they are trapped in.
Unlike most five star reviews, I can not recommend this show to everyone. It is weird, gruesome and heavily stylised. But if reading this hasn't put you off, then the show could be a real festival highlight… although maybe don't plan on eating any mince for your dinner that night.